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B&O Readies First WiSA SKUs, Custom Program

DENVER — Bang & Olufsen will offer the industry’s first WiSA-certified wireless home-audio products in October, with additional certified products from the company arriving by the end of the year, the company announced at the CEDIA Expo.

The B&O products will be the first of a wave of WiSA (Wireless Speaker and Sound)-certified products to hit the market in 2014, with other brands introducing anywhere from five to 10 WiSA-certified products at the 2014 International CES, said WiSA Association president Jim Venable.

Separately, the luxury-A/V brand announced:

• the launch of its Professional Program to expand the company’s dealer base to include more systems integrators;

• a major expansion of B&O Play sub-brand sales through more third-party outlets to complement sales through Bang & Olufsen-branded stores; and

• a 2.1 version of its 5.1 and 4.1 BeoLab 14 active home-theater speaker systems.

The company’s wireless products will be certified by WiSA, formed in late 2011, to ensure product compliance with the WiSA standard and ensure the ability of B&O’s products to interoperate with WiSA-certified products from other companies.

WiSA is a technology promoted as delivering interference- free 5GHz wireless audio to stereo and home theater speakers within a room up to 29.5 by 29.5 feet. The technology, also promoted as eliminating cable clutter, delivers up to 7.1 channels of 24-bit uncompressed audio said to be virtually indistinguishable from wired quality. The technology is also promoted as overcoming the latency challenges associated with other wireless technologies designed for multichannel home theaters.

The technology also simplifies setup by enabling automatic speaker-level, speaker-delay and phase adjustments that focus the audio sweet spot on any seating location chosen by a consumer within a room.

The industry’s first WiSA-certified products will be two Bang & Olufsen powered speakers, a powered subwoofer, and a 7.1-channel wireless transmitter. One powered speaker and the transmitter will ship at the end of October, followed before the end of the year by the other speaker and sub.

Bang & Olufsen did not reveal product details for publication.

The company also plans a running change at the end of October to add the technology at no extra cost to its three surround-equipped BeoVision 11 TVs, making an outboard WiSA transmitter unnecessary.

The B&O products will bear the WiSA logo but will also be promoted under B&O’s Immaculate Wireless Sound banner and logo.

In other announcements, Bang & Olufsen announced broader distribution of its B&O Play sub-brand products, the first of which were launched in 2012 to expand the company’s demographic to younger people. The lineup consists of more affordable products ranging from tabletop and portable audio products to smaller TVs that require no installation support.

A year ago, the company sold Play products through only 16 third-party outlets, all of which were Apple flagship stores, said Zean Nielsen, president of Bang and Olufsen America. Today, the sub-brand is sold through 381 thirdparty retailers, consisting of 269 Apple stores, 70 InMotion stores and about 42 Design Within Reach high-end furniture stores. That number will grow to more than 400 in November with the addition of an undisclosed national chain.

Also to expand sales, the company announced a new program under which select integrators will be offered the opportunity to become authorized resellers through partnerships with B&O-owned stores and with independently owned B&O stores.

Integrators will be asked to sign a partnership agreement, display a range of products, and ensure that employees attend regular training seminars online and in person, the company said.

B&O launched a similar program in 2004 through independently owned B&O stores, Nielsen said, but under the new program, the company will be more proactive in finding integrators for independently owned B&O stores to team up with. Also unlike before, B&O-owned stores will participate in the new program, he said.

“We will help dealers find installers,” added Thomas Folkmann, North American service manager. Local B&O dealers will assist custom installers with training, system design and proposals, and installers will share margins with the dealers, he said. Installers can also use B&O stores to demonstrate products or show B&O products in their own showrooms, he added.

It’s time for a stepped-up program, Nielsen said, because since the launch of the 2004 program, Bang & Olufsen has enhanced the integration capabilities of its products.

Company-owned stores are located in select markets such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle and Las Vegas, and in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Independently owned stores operate in the rest of the country.

Separately, Nielsen said his company’s U.S. sales grew 20 percent in its 2012 to 2013 fiscal year and that a new store design launched overseas will come to all 53 U.S. stores over the next year or two. The design emulates the look of high-end designer showrooms.